Discover more from Contents and Containers
How Circle of Hope makes leading a little bit easier
These days, I think being a leader is hard. Everyone sees what you are doing, and you get freely criticized. Sometimes you are dehumanized, too, because your friends and family think you can take it. It can be painful! Far be it from me to sympathize with our political leaders, but sometimes I do, when what they said ten years ago is taken out of context and used against them. (They all kind of participate in that mudslinging, so I don’t offer them too much sympathy.)
Sometimes you are given a title, so there’s even more expectation. Have you ever received a promotion and had your friends relate to you differently now that you’re the boss? That can be a challenge.
Philosophically, being a leader is hard in this era too. Because you are a convincer, an influencer, and that may be frowned upon by some. Leaders have followers, and you might even scoff at the idea that someone should follow you. It might violate your sense of equality or egalitarianism. It might feel hierarchical. It might feel inauthentic to help someone get from here to there. It might not feel organic to you. It could even feel manipulative.
When you add to that the fact that you are a “Christian” leader, it gets even harder. People are hostile toward Christians in the United States. Christians are often embarrassing too! Ted Cruz was talking about being a Christian the other night, and I kind of wanted to say I wasn’t a Christian in my Facebook profile after. It’s hard to say that you are one when Christians have done a lot of weird wild things in the past. It’s hard to help someone become one and be forthright about that when you are worried about your reputation too.
Saying you’re a Christian is one thing; helping someone else become one? That’s even harder, isn’t it?
If you feel alone in your postmodern, gentrifying city as a Christian and a Christian leader, you might be able to relate to our barbaric brother, Elijah. Once of his most profound interactions happens when he is resisting the evil King Ahab and hundreds of the prophets of Baal.
Israel at this point is suffering from a famine and drought and they are in misery. God needs to deliver them. Elijah is the key.
Elijah is sick of the Jewish people being wishy-washy about following God. He tells them you’ve got to choose one God or another. It can’t be Yahweh and Baal. This is a hard thing to do, in and of itself, in the postmodern era. You might feel like Elijah is being intolerant here, arrogant, prejudicial.
So all alone, Elijah went up against the 450 prophets of Baal, a false god of fertility. They entered a competition wherein they set two bulls up for sacrifice. Whoever’s God brought fire was the real God.
It is completely possible that Elijah has many motives. As a leader, you may have a lot of different reasons for doing what you are doing. Maybe Elijah wants to show off, maybe he wants to get credit, affirmation from people that have criticized him. There are many reasons to want to lead and do something. I wouldn’t deconstruct all your reasons as wicked. Let them be what they will. We live in a complicated world and era. Take it easy on yourself.
Anyway, Elijah’s turn comes and he drenches his wood and bull with water. So much so that a stream forms. Elijah gets his fire, and it even “licks up the stream.”
The Lord brings water finally and Israel is nourished. It’s all because of Elijah’s leadership. You have the same capacity for faith that Elijah demonstrates here. I just want to note that this is a special story. And you may want to read all of Kings to get the big idea here. If you start testing God to see if you should be a leader, it may be disappointing. I’m not sure that’s the right application of the story. I’m not really sure you should shoe horn yourself into the Bible anyway.
In Circle of Hope, we say that leadership is a team effort. We aren’t alone, even if it feels that way. You are a part of a team. I couldn't do what I do with our pastors team. Our team is one of the reasons we can take risks. It’s another reason we can contain pastors who think they are too big for their britches. It helps keep us accountable. It helps us discern (and not just react all the time).
In our system, we survive on equipping others for leadership. I suppose this is the point of what I am saying. We are always preparing our successors. That’s why your cell has an apprentice. Our leaders, and we have hundreds of them, keep our church alive and intimate. If we are ever down to one faithful Elijah against all of the priests of Baal, we have some trouble brewing.
I think I’m convincing you that Circle of Hope, then, is a hospitable place to be a leader. I’m not saying it will be easy. But we want to create an environment where leaders are encouraged, loved, and known. And it isn’t just for our goals, it’s because allowing God to equip you and become his co-worker is part of our spiritual development. We’re not just trying to cull out the gifts of the gifted. We are trying to get to a place where God is allowing us to do something bigger than we are, more than we are. You might not think you are a gifted leader, naturally, but I think God can use you and develop you.